Cristiano Ronaldo is used to getting what he wants. As one of the greatest players in football history, the Portuguese forward has been able to plot his career path in whichever way he desired. Now, though, Ronaldo finds himself at a difficult juncture. This has been proven by the events of this summer’s transfer window.
Ronaldo is intent on leaving Manchester United, but there aren’t many clubs able, or willing, to take on the 37-year-old. Nonetheless, Ronaldo remains one of the sharpest goalscorers around (he scored 18 times in 30 Premier League appearances last season). Which team would be the best fit for him? Which club should make a move?
Ronaldo’s illustrious history as a Real Madrid player hasn’t stopped reports linking the Portuguese forward with Atletico Madrid from surfacing. The 37-year-old could compromise his legacy at the Santiago Bernabeu by joining Atleti, but there’s reason to believe he would be a good fit for Diego Simeone’s team.
Atletico Madrid need a reliable finisher to play alongside either Joao Felix or Antoine Griezmann and Ronaldo is one of the sharpest shooters around, scoring 40% of his shots on target over the last 12 months.
Ronaldo already has an understanding with Felix at international level for Portugal and the pair could carry this into the club game.
Simeone’s approach wouldn’t require Ronaldo to press from the front. Felix, Griezmann or even Angel Correa would bring energy and mobility to the Atletico Madrid frontline while Ronaldo could focus on taking up dangerous, high-value attacking positions.
This transfer could potentially help Ronaldo prolong his career at the elite level. The only problem is what those on the other side of Madrid might think of him doing so.
In many ways, Bayern Munich would be the best fit for Ronaldo at this stage of his career. He has yet to test himself in the Bundesliga and would stand a very good chance of adding another title in another country to his collection.
On top of this, Bayern Munich have just lost a penalty box poacher in the form of Robert Lewandowski. Ronaldo could fill the void left by the Polish striker.
With Kingsley Coman, Serge Gnabry and Leroy Sane, not to mention Thomas Muller, providing support, Ronaldo would be supported in the frontline. However, Julian Nagelsmann plans on using Lewandowski’s departure as an opportunity to modernise his attack. Sadio Mane has been signed to play as a mobile, high-energy number nine.
Nagelsmann wants his attack to press from the front. Ronaldo, however, averages just 1.66 successful pressures per 90 minutes, placing him in the lowest percentile for players in his position. The Portuguese would be a good option for Bayern Munich, but they wouldn’t mould themselves around Ronaldo in the way he wants.
Chelsea looked to offer Ronaldo the most feasible route out of Old Trafford following meetings between the club’s new owner Todd Boehly and the Portuguese star’s agent, Jorge Mendes.
Romelu Lukaku flopped at Stamford Bridge last season and so the Blues were believed to be in the market for a new centre forward. Ronaldo, in some ways, fit the bill.
Thomas Tuchel, however, reportedly vetoed the move, raising many of the same concerns echoed by those who have watched Ronaldo’s recent struggles at Manchester United. Much like Nagelsmann, the Chelsea manager wants a level of energy from his number nine that Ronaldo at 37 just isn’t able to provide.
It says a lot that Chelsea instead made a move for Raheem Sterling, who is in the 92nd percentile for tackles made in the attacking third per 90 minutes. The England international is used to playing in a modern, high-intensity team and is capable of playing in every position across the frontline. None of these things can be said about Ronaldo.
If Ronaldo is purely concerned with keeping himself in the Champions League, Napoli might be his best, and most realistic, option.
Luciano Spalletti’s team sat at the top of the Serie A table for much of last season only to fade away following an injury to Victor Osimhen. Ronaldo could give Napoli the extra firepower they need to sustain their challenge over a full campaign.
However, Spalletti would likely have to pick between Osimhen and Ronaldo as his number nine and the argument can be made that the former offers Napoli more. Osimhen’s goals-to-minutes rate is slightly higher than Ronaldo’s over the last 12 months with the Nigerian also charting stronger numbers in terms of pressures and progressive carries.
Napoli rely on Osimhen to conduct attacks as well as finish them. This is something they wouldn’t be able to do with Ronaldo as their frontman. Spalletti would have to do a more comprehensive job of constructing attacking sequences in the final third with an increasingly immobile 37-year-old leading the line.
The prospect of uniting Lionel Messi and Ronaldo in the same team would surely be an attractive one for Paris Saint-Germain.
In the past, the French club might not have been able to resist the temptation. There has, however, been a change of direction at the Parc des Princes this summer with former Monaco and Lille sporting director Luis Campos now in charge of transfer policy.
New PSG manager Christophe Galtier will likely line up his team in a 4-4-2 formation, which leaves them over-stocked in the attacking areas without Ronaldo being part of the squad.
Galtier will look for more cohesion between his midfield and frontline with Messi, Kylian Mbappe and Neymar likely to be utilised as creators as well as goalscorers.
PSG are now attempting to forge a team unit, as demonstrated by their recent addition of Vitinha and pursuit of Nordi Mukiele. The signing of Ronaldo would go against the grain of this. Looking beyond his value as a marketing tool, it’s difficult to envisage how Ronaldo could possibly find a role for himself at the Parc des Princes.
Jose Mourinho has worked with Ronaldo previously and some reports claim the Roma manager is keen for a reunion with his countryman in the Italian capital.
Roma have already signed Paulo Dybala to strengthen their frontline this summer and there’s reason to believe Ronaldo could work well alongside the Argentine.
Of course, Dybala and Ronaldo forged a partnership during their time together at Juventus. Mourinho is already going to have to change his tactical approach to make room for Dybala and having the 28-year-old do much of the legwork for his ageing strike partner could help get the best out of Ronaldo.
However, Roma already have a proven goalscorer to use in this way in the form of Tammy Abraham who scored 17 goals in 37 Serie A appearances last season. What’s more, Roma will be in the Europa League, not the Champions League, this season – just like Manchester United. It’s unclear what a switch to the Stadio Olimpico this summer would achieve for Ronaldo.